California Marine Corps Base Holds First Same-Sex Wedding
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — Two women have become the first same-sex couple to marry on a Marine Corps base, after the Camp Pendleton base chapel honored their request to hold a wedding ceremony last week, Duffel Blog has learned.
Sgt. Theresa Lovelace and her partner, Cynthia Downonu, married on June 12, just weeks before Lovelace is scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan as a supply non-commissioned officer responsible for the 2014 drawdown. It was a decision that would have been impossible a few years ago, before the don’t ask, don’t tell law requiring them to keep their relationship a secret was repealed.
"We submitted a request to have the wedding on base, along with a photo of us together, and we received a response almost immediately," Cynthia said. "We actually received several calls from Marines volunteering to assist with the wedding. They said they wanted the first same-sex wedding to be perfect."
Both women say the positive reaction is the exact reaction they received when they accidentally went public with their relationship last fall at Lovelace's unit picnic, making out with one another after Lovelace fell into cold water in the unit's dunk-tank.
Approximately 2,000 Marines attended the wedding, which was officiated by three Navy chaplains, one of which flew in from Twentynine Palms, a Marine base roughly 140 miles northeast of Pendleton. Combat Camera Marines volunteered to film the event and the base Public Affairs Officer arranged to have it live-streamed to Afghanistan for morale purposes. Lovelace's unit also set up the dunk-tank where co-workers first saw them kiss, as well as an inflatable pool full of mud for Lovelace and Downonu to celebrate in after the ceremony.
"One thing we are sure of is we want our future children to know how much support we received from our fellow Marines on this special day," Lovelace told a reporter from Marine Corps Times after the wedding. "The level of interest in our relationship is greater than we would have ever expected."
The Times also reported an outpouring of support from Marines offering to help Lovelace and Downonu have a child.
Lovelace and Downonu planned on going to Lovelace's hometown of Modesto, California for the honeymoon, but Marines convinced them to celebrate in the barracks instead. Combat Camera and Public Affairs Marines offered to film and live-stream the honeymoon also, but Lovelace and Downonu respectfully declined.
"I never thought I'd be able to show my love to another woman like this on a Marine base," Lovelace said. "I know we are going to have our challenges going forward, but I also know that we will always have a place to stay as long as I am a Marine."